The Pelican State is known for many things. Not all of them are positive. With its history of destructive weather and a high poverty rate, the state isn’t always seen in the most positive light. It does, however, offer so much more than people think, particularly considering its rich and distinct culture.
From its ethnically diverse history to Mardi Gras to having two cities ranked on the U.S. News list of “Best Places to Live,” the state has its fair share of surprises (and alligators).
Louisiana has a lot to prove, so we thought we’d help it out a bit. If you’re considering a move to this lively southern belle, check out these tips we’ve compiled, the good and the bad.
Louisiana is a state that has struggled in the past to get its feet underneath it. From its position during the Civil War to its controversial stance during the Civil Rights Movement, it’s a state that has been in turmoil for many years. Its job market is no stranger to the ups and downs in its success. The great news is, it’s seeing improvement every year, fueled in part by its raving nightlife and tourism industry. What can we say? The people love a good celebration.
Ranked as the state 49th overall for best states for job and economic opportunities, the state as a whole has a 4.4% unemployment rate, which is only a few points higher than the national average. With a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, it’s a good thing the state is ranked 19th overall for affordability by U.S. News, and 26th for affordable cost of living.
While the state may not be ranked the highest for job opportunities, it is getting better. It’s predicted that through 2024, there will be a 7% growth in employment in the state. The industries experiencing the most growth are health care, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality. The state’s tourism industry alone accounted for nearly 9% of the state’s non-farm jobs in 2015, with $11.5 billion in visitor spending. A big chunk of that is from the annual Mardi Gras celebration (more on that later).
For those who are curious, the top fastest growing jobs, according to Zippia, are software engineer, software developer, and home health aide. The companies with the largest workforces in the state include CenturyLink, Ochsner Health System, and Odyssea Marine. If your heart is set on the Pelican State, those growing industries may be your ticket into Mardi Gras bliss.
The trend toward outward mobility has been common over the last century, with many people in the flood zones in the southern part of the state leaving for safer and dryer ground. Many houses in the southern part around New Orleans and the bayous south of the city are being left to sit and await their fate. The state government is even trying to buy out houses for residents affected by the worst flooding.
Last year alone, around 27,000 Louisianans moved to other states. That made a net population decrease of around 2,000 people. Many of the moves out of state were related to the current job market. Louisianans haven’t been very happy about the current state of affairs.
With a mass exodus of people (flood- and job-related), the state has faced a surge in abandoned houses, and lower-than-average housing prices. U.S. News ranked housing affordability in Louisiana 20th in the nation. The median home value in the state is $141,397, and it’s predicted to go up 1.8% over the next year. The median rent price is $1,200.
Potential movers need to take location into consideration, however. Only four cities have populations over 100,000, making much of the state rural. The majority of the housing, including new construction, is available in the four most populous cities, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Lafayette. If you’re looking outside of the bigger cities, housing can be found that’s cheaper but typically further along in years. The average year of when houses were built between 1980 and 1989.
What all of this means is, if you’re planning a move, you better stick to dryer ground or your move might end up being a tad wetter than you wanted.
People and Culture
This state is steeped in a rich, diverse history, and has the culture and people to show for it. The land occupied by this state was bought by then-president Thomas Jefferson from the French in 1803 as part of the much larger Louisiana Purchase. Louisiana became a state in 1812, and quickly became a haven for all types of ethnicities. By the 1840s, New Orleans had the biggest slave market in the nation, introducing the African population to the colorful culture that already had settled in the territory.
Today, not only people of Cajun and African descent, but also those of Creole, Spanish, and Native American backgrounds, that are visible all over the state. While the state is ethnically diverse, all Louisianans have one thing in common, a modest and laid back lifestyle. The deep cultural roots of all these ethnicities transformed the state into a lively cultural hub for music, delicious one-of-a-kind cuisine, and a spirited social atmosphere. No city better represents this than New Orleans.
If jazz, jambalaya and drinking aren’t your thing, you better look elsewhere. Louisianans are proud of their diverse heritage and take celebrating their festivities very seriously. There’s no need to look any further than the annual Mardi Gras celebration for evidence of that.
To some, Louisiana may seem like a whole different country, with such diversity in population, language, and culture. But one thing holds true, whether it’s the heavy Cajun influence in the southern bayous or the African influence in the central and northern regions: The music never seems to stop. The celebrations of life transport its people to a simpler time and place.
Must-Sees in Louisiana
If you’re looking to move to the state known for its Cajun cooking and love of everything jazz, it’s best to know where to find them. Here is a list of must-see sights so you don’t miss out on all the fun.
Must-sees in the state:
- Bourbon Street, Canal Street and Frenchmen Street: All of these are worth a mention because they all offer something different. Bourbon Street’s 13 blocks straight through the heart of the French Quarter is where everyone knows to go for a good time. It has historic bars, jazz and burlesque clubs steeped in music and revelry that lasts all night. Canal Street is one of the main thoroughfares in New Orleans and a great starting point for any tour. Then there is Frenchmen Street. It’s the heart of the city’s live music scene and only a short walk from the French Quarter. It’s more of a local hangout for those wanting an authentic New Orleans music experience.
- Jackson Square and the St Louis Cathedral: Another must-see in Louisiana’s most beloved city. St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in the U.S., with the first church built in 1718. It resides across from Jackson Square, which is a National Historic Landmark because of its significant role in the city’s history.
- Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve: This extensive park operates six separate areas to help protect the natural and cultural resources of the Mississippi River Delta region of the state. The park is filled with abundant wildlife and flora, in addition to rich habitats like swamps and marshes that visitors can take boat or canoe tours through. Just watch out for alligators.
- Mardi Gras: If you’re going to be in Louisiana, you better make it February so you can check out Mardi Gras. It’s a must. Every city celebrates Carnival differently, but you’re guaranteed great music and even better food throughout the whole festival.
- Kisatchie National Forest: This is the only national forest in Louisiana. Its 604,000 acres are scattered through the central and northern parts of the state, and it features rare longleaf pine forests and flatwood vegetation, and is home to many rare plant and animal species.
Pros and Cons of Living in Louisiana
Every state has its ups and downs. The question is how you deal with them when they come flying at you with 90 mph winds. Here are the pros and cons of the Pelican State that you should consider before any boxes are packed.
Pros of living in the Pelican State:
- People: The people know how to celebrate, and most of the time it’s a simple celebration of life. Whether it’s a crawfish boil, a weekend festival or a normal Saturday night, expect to hear music, laughter, and revelry as they celebrate anything and everything they can. Count us in.
- Natural beauty: The landscape is as rich and diverse as its people. From the bayous in the south to the pine forests in the central and northern regions, there are landscapes to suit any adventure.
- Food: Better embrace it, because it’s good. If you think crawfish, po’boys or anything Cajun aren’t for you, better just keep that to yourself.
Cons of living in Louisiana:
- Health care: Overall health care is ranked 47th in the nation. The state struggles to provide quality healthcare services to its citizens, particularly in the rural, impoverished regions
- Education: Education throughout the state is ranked 49th. The cost is low, but it comes at the expense of quality. State assessment scores are some of the lowest in the country, and only 23% of citizens have a bachelor’s degree, which is lower than the national average.
- Opportunities for its citizens: In general, the economic and job opportunities are limited. As a state that is having a tough time economically, it sees a high poverty rate and one of the lowest household incomes in the country.
- Weather: Not only is the state often bombarded with hurricanes and severe weather (many of which cause flooding throughout the southern half of the state), but it also experiences heat and humidity to rival that of the sun. Seriously. It has average humidity levels in the high 80s to low 90s every day, while summers see an average temp of over 90 degrees. At least that makes packing easy.
Every state has them. It doesn’t make them good. It doesn’t make them bad. But it definitely makes them entertaining. Here are a few of the more entertaining laws to keep an eye out for in Louisiana:
- One could possibly land in jail for 20 years upon urinating in the city’s water supply. Don’t get caught with your pants down. Literally. That’s a big big no no.
- Persons could land in jail for up to ten years for stealing an alligator. They take their wildlife and pets very seriously here.
- There’s a $500 fine for instructing a pizza delivery man to deliver a pizza to your friend without them knowing. For all of you altruistic people out there who love surprising your friends with free pizza, stop being so nice.
- Running an abortion advertisement can land you in jail for a year. Did we forget to mention that it’s the 4th most religious state in the nation?
- It is illegal to shoot lasers at police officers. Let’s just not even consider the possibility. Ever.
- It is illegal to gargle in public places. That sore throat of yours could land your butt in jail.
- One could land in jail for up to a year for making a false promise. Mom always said, don’t make promises you can’t keep. In Louisiana, they clearly took that to heart.
Welcome to Louisiana
This hot and wild southern state may not be for everyone, but it’s definitely for someone. With an abundance of feisty culture, friendly people, and wildlife (alligators included), it’s no wonder people who visit fall in love with Louisiana.
If you aren’t completely set on a move to the Pelican State, never fear, it’ll still be there when you do decide (unless the Gulf swallows it up). Until then, take another gander at our pretty list (particularly the weird laws section), because we know (or hope) it’s full of helpful info that’ll make your decision a bit clearer. If this state isn’t for you, the great news is there are 49 more to choose from. Happy hunting!